Review: Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla
Yet another retcon as this film pretends none of the previous films in the ‘Millennium Series’ even exist (The next film in the series does continue on from this one, however). Godzilla attacks Japan for the first time in some 40 odd years after its first attack in the 1950s, with other monsters like Mothra having ravaged the city over the years. The recovery of bones from the ocean suggest that this Godzilla is not the same Godzilla from 1954 (that one died), however but a younger version. Yumiko Shaku is a soldier who is the only one of her platoon to survive an attack. Three years later and a team of scientists come together to try to prevent further attacks, including science teacher Shin Takuma, an expert of creating mechanical beasts out of the DNA/bones of living organisms. The end result is the hulking robot Mechagodzilla, built from material that includes the bones of the 1954 Godzilla. ‘Coz that sure is a good idea that won’t embarrassingly backfire when Mechagodzilla starts defying its trained pilots (including Yumiko Shaku looking to prove herself) and refuses to do its job. Nope, that wouldn’t happen. Except it does, and so it’s back to the drawing board to figure out why the robot is going into business for itself.
After the mild disappointment of the previous “Giant Monsters All-Out Attack”, director Masaaki Tezuka (“Godzilla vs. Megaguirus”) gets the ‘Millennium Series’ back on track with this terrific 2002 entry featuring the return of an old favourite in the long-running franchise: Mechagodzilla. Right from the get-go I was impressed by the thumping music score by composer Michiru Ohshima (who scored the ‘Millennium Series’ from “Godzilla vs. Megaguirus” onwards), it’s exciting stuff and possibly the best music score of this particular series in the long-running franchise, and it doesn’t even need the inimitable Ifukube theme. Early on we get a very funny bit where a weatherman is struggling during a typhoon and then the big green guy appears behind him. Once again, they get the framing and lighting spot on, as in this film Godzilla is shot amidst darkened skies and pissing rain. Very impressive, and Godzilla itself looks better in this outing, no longer looking all cloudy-eyed and blind.
Showing the previous film how it’s done, this one has tanks firing on Godzilla within 5 minutes and never sticks around long enough to get boring. It’s lean, mean, and effective, and aside from some shoddy projection work the imagery and FX are very colourful and really cool. The ‘Millennium Series’ seemed to have an emphasis on girl power and this one even gives us a female political leader, which is nice I guess...until she’s replaced by a dude 22 minutes in. In fairness, several years are covered during that period. Scripted by Wataru Mimura (who actually worked on the ‘Hensei Series’ entry “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (II)”, as well as “Godzilla 2000” and “Godzilla: Final Wars” in the ‘Millennium Series’), the passage of time covered is done relatively smoothly, though the characters don’t visibly age at all, really.
I’m not sure we needed yet another father-daughter relationship at the centre of a Godzilla film, and once again a science teacher is helping in the fight against Godzilla, this time on a more macro level (creating Mechagodzilla). Still, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here, and the female pilot with a tragic past and something to prove is, if clichéd, at least somewhat appealing. The film calls back to the original 1954 “Gojira” as well as the original “Mothra” and even “War of the Gargantuas” via a reference to something called Bigfoot Gaira. I’ve not seen “War of the Gargantuas”, but I clearly need to get that remedied ASAP. Mechagodzilla, meanwhile looks majestic as hell, matching the music score. I love the Absolute Zero weapon, it’s awesome. I loved how Mechagodzilla was so almighty awesome that it doesn’t need to shoot down or smash buildings, it just walks right through them like a mofo and they crumble. We get a genuinely surprising and fascinating twist about 40 minutes in about Mechagodzilla as well. All I’ll say is that there are things in its makeup that come back to bite us in the arse. Being that the film has to cover a long period of time, the film is obviously a bit choppy. However, I actually think this one gets the mixture of monster action and plot/character right. The fights are really well shot and fun, and visually there is a real anime/Manga influence I think. To the former, it’s about time a monster finally decided to fling Godzilla across the city by its tail. He’s flung many a monster himself over the years, the big green bully.
Lean and mean at under 90 minutes, this is jolly good fun both on a story level and monster stuff, too. The second-best film in the ‘Millennium Series’ of Godzilla films in my opinion and probably the best “Mechagodzilla” film to date as well.